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German Chancellor urges more air defence for Ukraine at Berlin conference

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Berlin, June 11 (IANS/DPA) At an international reconstruction conference for Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for a further strengthening of the country’s air defence against Russian attacks.

He called on allies to support a German initiative to bolster Ukraine’s air defence “with everything possible.”

“Because the best reconstruction is the one that doesn’t have to happen in the first place,” Scholz said at the start of the conference, which is being held in the German capital of Berlin.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is also attending the conference.

Scholz held out the prospect of far-reaching and long-term commitments for reconstruction in the country, which has been severely scarred by more than two years of costly all-out war and years of simmering conflict before that.

Scholz said he will push for those kinds of commitments at an upcoming summit of the G7 group of wealthy democratic countries, which begins in Italy on Thursday.

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The chancellor pointed out that the World Bank estimates that $500 billion in reconstruction aid will be needed over the next decade.

He also called on private companies to participate in investments: “In view of the scale we are talking about here, private capital must be added.”

Hundreds of German companies continue to do active business in Ukraine, with automotive firms alone employing about 35,000 people in Ukraine, Scholz emphasised.

Despite the war, there was no reduction in German investment in Ukraine, Scholz said, and the volume of trade had significantly increased since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

“All of this shows that the business sector understands Ukraine’s potential,” Scholz said.

–IANS/DPA

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Report highlights worsening human rights situation in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

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Peshawar, June 12 (IANS) A security report prepared by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province paints a suffering tale of public unrest, killings, terrorism, climate crisis, and health severity during the year 2023, calling on the government to take immediate and emergency steps for the protection of human rights and human lives in the region.

The report, released by HRCP KP chapter Vice Chairman Akbar Khan, revealed the worsening situation of the province during the past year with a major increase in terror attacks, loss of lives, killings, kidnappings, climate crisis, and challenging health conditions.

“More than 160 cops and over 70 military personnel were targeted in the province last year. Over 60 civilians and more than 170 militants were killed during 2023 in targeted operations,” said Akbar Khan.

“During 2023, at least 40 innocent lives were lost due to floods and storms. Eleven per cent of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has suffered severely from drug abuse,” he added.

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He also highlighted that gross human rights violations were witnessed during 2023, especially after the chaotic and violent protests by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters on May 9 last year when houses were raided and arrests were made.

“The basic rights of the citizens were blatantly violated after the May 9 violence through raids and arrests targeting the supporters of Imran Khan and PTI,” said Akbar Khan.

The report also highlighted the staggering number of out of school children in the province. As per the report, at least 4.7 million children were out of school, including at least 66 per cent girls.

The report revealed that physically challenged persons were still unable to access public places due to lack of wheelchair access, despite the court order to have special ramps at public places designated for physically challenged people.

The report also mentioned the first phase of the forced return of at least 1.7 million illegal Afghan refugees in Pakistan, stating that the authorities and law-enforcement agencies opted to use force to capture and send back illegal undocumented Afghan nationals.

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It said that major violations of human rights were practiced by the government during 2023, as authorities carried out raids and search operations in various areas to capture illegal Afghans, thus committing some serious violations of human rights.

“At least 212,000 Afghan nationals were forcibly sent back to their home country in 2023,” the report read.

–IANS

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Both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes in Gaza: UN

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Geneva, June 12 (IANS/DPA) Both Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip have committed war crimes since the conflict there erupted on October 7 last year, according to a report by the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

“It is imperative that all those who have committed crimes be held accountable,” said the chair of the UN Human Rights Council Commission, Navi Pillay.

Pillay called on Israel to end its military action in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s war crimes include starving the population as a means of warfare, deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects, sexual violence, torture and inhuman or cruel treatment, the UN Rights Council reported.

Pillay also called for an end to the attacks by Palestinian armed groups on Israel and the release of all hostages.

The commission lists attacks on civilians, torture, inhumane and cruel treatment and hostage-taking as war crimes committed by the military arm of the Islamist Hamas movement and six other armed groups.

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“The taking of hostages constitutes a war crime,” Pillay said.

During the Hamas attack on October 7 on Israel around 1,200 people were killed and another 250 taken as hostages. Around 120 are still in the hands of Hamas, but it is feared that many are already dead.

Israel responded to the attack with a massive military offensive on Gaza, in which more than 37,000 people have been killed and many more thousands injured, according to the Hamas authorities.

Around 85 per cent of the population in Gaza, 1.9 million people, has been forcibly displaced in the wake of the Israeli attacks, according to UN figures.

Israel had obstructed the work of the commission and had refused access to the occupied Palestinian territories, she said. According to the UN, this also includes the Gaza Strip.

The commission said it had analysed thousands of verified reports, forensic analyses, satellite images and medical reports, and spoken to victims and witnesses in Turkey and Egypt.

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The report, presented in Geneva, is written by a commission of independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN Human Rights Office has repeatedly spoken of war crimes on both sides.

Israel rejected the report. According to a statement from the Israeli embassy in Geneva, the commission had taken a one-sided view of the situation. It ignored the fact that Hamas used people as shields and thus put civilians in the line of fire, it said.

–IANS/DPA

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Germany bans local Salafist Muslim group with large internet reach

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Berlin, June 12 (IANS/DPA) Authorities in Germany have moved to ban a Muslim association based in the central city of Braunschweig, accusing the group of spreading extremist views.

Police also launched several raids aimed at the Braunschweig-based German-Speaking Muslim Association (DMG) on Wednesday morning, which sources told dpa also included searches of two apartments in Berlin.

The Interior Ministry in the state of Lower Saxony, which includes Braunschweig, moved to prohibit the DMG, claiming it conflicts with Germany’s constitutional democratic order.

“We do not tolerate associations in which supposed non-believers, women and Jews, as well as our social order as a whole, are regularly devalued and followers called upon to fight them,” said Lower Saxony’s interior minister, Daniela Behrens. “The ban on the DMG is a hard blow against the Salafist scene in Lower Saxony and beyond.”

Behrens said that no arrests were made in the raids, but that assets belonging to the DMG were confiscated.

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A report from Lower Saxony’s domestic intelligence agency in June 2023 alleged that the Braunschweig-based DMG had become a nationwide meeting point for Salafist preachers, and had significantly expanded its online presence with content on YouTube, TikTok, Spotify and Telegram.

“Every week, the appearances of these nationally known Salafist preachers are also made accessible to a large number of viewers via the various online channels of the DMG Braunschweig,” the state’s Interior Ministry said in a statement at the time.

According to the ministry, the DMG Braunschweig’s YouTube channel alone had around 70,000 subscribers as of May 2023.

“The risk of self-radicalisation is and remains high, especially in light of the digital possibilities for information and communication,” the ministry said at the time.

The group’s website includes postings for numerous opportunities aimed at children and young people. These include Koran camps, children’s camps, youth conferences and study circles.

–IANS/DPA

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Kuwait building fire: Indian Ambassador meets injured in hospital

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New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Adarsh Swaika, Ambassador of India to Kuwait, visited the Farwaniya Hospital in Kuwait city where many Indian workers injured in Wednesday’s fire incident have been admitted.

“Ambassador Adarsh Swaika visited Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital, where 11 workers injured in today’s fire have been admitted. 10 of them are expected to be released today & one in hospital is reportedly stable. He met with patients still in hospital & assured them of Embassy’s full support,” the Indian Embassy in Kuwait posted on X.

The Indian diplomat met a number of patients and assured them of full assistance from the Embassy.

Swaika also visited the tragic fire-incident site in Mangaf to ascertain the situation, assuring that the Indian Embassy is in constant touch with relevant Kuwaiti law enforcement, fire-service and health authorities for necessary action and emergency medical health-care.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar expressed deep shock over the tragic fire incident, which he said has resulted in several deaths.

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“Deeply shocked by the news of the fire incident in Kuwait city. There are reportedly over 40 deaths and over 50 have been hospitalised. Our Ambassador has gone to the camp. We are awaiting further information,” Jaishankar said on X.

“Deepest condolences to the families of those who tragically lost their lives. Wish early and full recovery to those who have been injured. Our Embassy will render the fullest assistance to all concerned in this regard,” he added.

The Indian Embassy in Kuwait has also put out an emergency helpline number in connection with the tragedy.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health also released a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“The Ministry of Health has so far dealt with 43 cases through the accident departments in a number of hospitals, in a building fire incident in Mangaf, of which 4 cases arrived dead,” it said.

–IANS

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2 die of suspected meningococcal meningitis disease in Vietnam

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Hanoi, June 12 (IANS) Two people in a family in Vietnam’s northern region died of suspected meningococcal meningitis disease while two other family members were in critical condition, according to the National Tropical Disease Hospital on Wednesday.

A 38-year-old male patient being treated at the hospital’s emergency department said within only five days, two members of his family, his 22-month-old daughter, and mother, had died after showing symptoms like high fever, headache, and diarrhoea, Xinhua news agency reported.

He and his 11-year-old son were diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis disease a few days later.

Tran Van Bac, deputy head of the hospital’s emergency department, said the cause of death had not been determined, but there is a high risk that the deceased were infected with meningococcal meningitis disease.

According to doctors, meningococcal disease is transmitted from human to human through the respiratory tract. It is difficult for early diagnosis as the disease progresses quickly.

–IANS

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